Marijuana possession, sale, and distribution is regulated by both state and federal law. In Connecticut, marijuana is regulated as a schedule I controlled substance. (Conn. State Agencies Regulations § 21a-243-7.) There may be some exceptions to the following laws for medical marijuana possession and use. And, while not covered below, it is also a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Connecticut.
For more information on driving under the influence or marijuana in Connecticut, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Connecticut.
To learn how Connecticut regulates medical marijuana, see Medical Marijuana in Connecticut.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession and Use
Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense. Penalties depend on the amount.
- Less than one half of an ounce. In July of 2011, the Connecticut legislature passed a bill decriminalizing possession and personal use of less than one half ounce of marijuana. Such possession is now considered a civil violation, subject to a fine of up to $150; but violators are no longer arrested or subject to criminal prosecution. (Conn. Senate Bill 1014.)
- Between one-half of an ounce and four ounces. First offenses carry a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both. Second and subsequent offenders are fined up to $3,000, imprisoned for up to five years, or both. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-279.)
- Four ounces or more. First offenses carry a fine of up to $2,000, up to five years imprisonment, or both. Second and subsequent offenders may be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to ten years, or both. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-279.)
- Alternative sentences. The judge may also send violators to prison for up to three years, during which time the Commissioner of Correction may allow the violator to participate in supervised release (probation). However, the commissioner may revoke the supervised release during the sentence time, returning the violator to prison, if the violator violates any conditions of probation while released. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-279(e).)
Possession In a School Zone
Violations that take place within 1,500 feet of a school or day care center, when the violator is not a student, may incur up to two years of additional imprisonment. This additional time will be consecutive to other jail time that applies under the penalties described above. So, for example, if a person is sentenced to ten years in prison for possessing more than four ounces of marijuana, but this possession also happens to take place within 1,500 feet of a school, the person may have up to two more years of prison time added to the person’s sentence, for a total of 12 years. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-279(d).)
Marijuana Cultivation and Sale
The cultivation, sale, delivery, or distribution of marijuana is a felony in Connecticut. Connecticut imposes a range of penalties.
One kilogram or less. A first offense carries a fine of up to $25,000, up to seven years imprisonment, or both.
More than one kilogram. A first offense carries a minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison..
Cultivation and Sale Within a School Zone
Violators who sell drugs within 1,500 feet of a school or day care center face a mandatory three years of imprisonment, in addition to the prison times described above. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-278a(b).)
Sale to a minor. Someone who sells marijuana to a minor who is at least two years younger than the violator is subject to an additional mandatory two years in prison. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-278a(a).)
Hiring a minor to sell drugs. This conviction carries an additional mandatory three years in prison. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-278a(c).)
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Possessing drug paraphernalia is a crime in Connecticut only when the violator also possesses a certain amount of drugs, or when the violator makes or sells paraphernalia knowing that it will be used to ingest drugs. Penalties include:
Possession with less than one half ounce marijuana. A violation is a noncriminal infraction, carrying a fine of between $150 and $500. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-267(d).)
Possession with more than one half once marijuana. Violations for paraphernalia possession accompanying more than one half ounce of marijuana are a class C misdemeanor. Penalties include up to three months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-267(a).)
Manufacture or delivery of paraphernalia. A person who manufactures with the intent to deliver or sell (or who delivers or sells paraphernalia), knowing or reasonably being able to presume that it will be used to ingest drugs, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Penalties include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-267(b).)
Immunity for Seeking Medical Assistance
Someone who would otherwise be in violation of the possession or paraphernalia laws described above may gain immunity from prosecution for seeking medical assistance in good faith. This includes a person who seeks medical assistance for another person who reasonably seems to be suffering from an overdose from alcohol or any drug. It also applies to the person who needs help, or if the person seeking help is the one suffering an overdose. Immunity is granted even if no overdose actually has occurred, as long as the person seeking help reasonably believes that an overdose was occurring while the help was being sought. However, “good faith” does not include seeking help during the course of an arrest or lawful search by the police. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 21a-279(g).)
Does Connecticut Impose a Stamp Tax on Marijuana?
Yes. A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.
In Connecticut, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into Connecticut are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-651.)
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.